A few hours to check out a tiny museum packed with industrial history, a witness to the nineteenth and twentieth century impact on Mataura.
Mataura is a town worth the short road trip from Gore, a mere 12km where museums and tiger moth World War I planes vie for attention. For fans of industrial history Mataura is a worthwhile stop.
Who turned up and settled in Mataura?
- Mataura sits beside the Mataura Falls, known to Māori as Te Au Nui, and a source of kanakana (lampreys). Gore was near the traditional routes used by pre-European Maori travellers. Tuturau, near Mataura had a permanent pa (village). In 1836 southern Maori repelled a raid from the north, which provided sufficient security for Europeans to purchase land and settle in the area. By the mid-1850s large tracts nearby had been converted into sheep runs. At Tutuaura a monument commemorates the 1836 defeat by Murihiku Māori of Te Pūoho and his war party from the North Island. Te Hono o te Ika a Māui ki Ngāi Tahu marae is located in Mataura.
- Mataura is a town dominated by its industrial place from a paper mill (1876), a dairy factory (1887) and freezing works (1893). The falls were blasted by dynamite to harness water for industry, permanently altering their size and shape. The dairy factory closed in the 1980’s and paper mill in 2000. The opencast coal mine closed shortly afterwards as its largest customer was the paper mill. The freezing works continue to operate. There are local sawmilling and fibreboard plants operating.
- Cardigan Bay standardbred racehorse, first horse to earn USD$1million dollars in prize money in North America. Cardy was foaled in Mataura.
- Quirky Fact: Cardigan Bay standardbred racehorse (foaled in Gore district) won a major event at Addington Raceway in Christchurch while the grandstand was on fire. A photo of this race is considered one of the great iconic images in the history of horse racing.
- Toxic waste from industrial sites with the danger of flood waters causing havoc for local residents. The legacy inheritance from New Zealand Aluminium Smelters storage practices in the disused paper mill.
What to do, highlights
- Mataura Museum, based in 1880’s working cottage known as Clematis Cottage, narrates the story of industry in the town. Local photographs and artefacts make for a powerful message. The museum is managed by volunteers.
- Industrial heritage stories are not always pretty, rather broken factories, abandoned buildings and equipment are often the legacy. For visitors a trip to Mataura will add to the story of production versus the environment.
Where to take the best selfie
- Local museum
- Abandoned buildings and disused industrial sites
- Apart from industrial buildings and the museum there is not much in the way of designated children focused activities.
What keeps the place going?
- Freezing works
- Nearby Gore agribusiness and Southland dairy industry
- A few hours to visit the museum and ponder about the impact of industrialisation on the landscape. The tiny museum was joint best museum project winner along with the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum at the New Zealand Museum Awards in 2015.
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- MATAURA – 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand – Te Ara
- The river derives its name from a Maori term meaning “reddish, glowing face,” referring to the red glow of the river surface when swamp water, coloured red by iron oxide, drains into it… The Mataura had a whaling station at its mouth in the 1830s… Mataura River | river, New Zealand
The journey is worth it.